Review: Baby Driver
“Something for everyone” is a phrase used far too often by far too many. What it's supposed to mean is that even the most ardent critical eye will find something to like and that you would be hard pressed to find someone who would reject whatever the product is. What it often winds up meaning in reality is that someone has undertaken an effort to jam in every conceivable gimmick to draw in the lowest common denominator. That is not Baby Driver.
Fun at the movies is not in short supply. There are plenty of films that incorporate wry jokes, nonsensical plot lines and over the top theatrics. But somehow, Baby Driver still feels like a singular experience. Whether it is the technical prowess or the murderer’s row of entertaining actors, this movie is popcorn in the best possible way. Just about everything that makes it on screen is there to entertain. Edgar Wright’s film does everything it can to give you what you want, but at the same time, it is never dumb or bloated. It is as smart as it is fast and it is almost a guarantee that you will walk away satisfied.
The film opens with a bank robbery because that is what almost all of the principal characters here do. Baby (played by Ansel Elghort) is roped into this criminal operation because of a debt he owes to Doc (played by Kevin Spacey), who masterminds these heists with an array of characters with varying levels of chill and no chill. As can be expected in bands of criminals, friction is everywhere and most of the people are always a second or two from pulling the trigger.
Baby’s contribution to the group is driving, which he is said to have been a genius at since childhood. Also notable about Baby is that because of a childhood accident, he hears a hum, which he drowns out by constantly wearing iPod fueled headphones. This is where the film finds its way. His personal soundtrack becomes that of the film and really gives the action its bearings. When he decides he wants to skip town with his waitress love-interest, things get complicated, as he continues to be pulled into heist after heist with ever-increasing stakes.
Up until now, I have been out on the Ansel Elgort experience. I didn't outright reject his acting; I just wasn't sure he could carry a film. And while there would certainly be enough here to float a subpar lead, he actually holds his own among an array of more acclaimed actors (Spacey, Foxx, Hamm). He does justice to the surprising depth his character has given his backstory and ambitions.
But more than anything, the real star here is the brilliant mix of sound, editing and photography that creates action sequences unlike any I've ever seen. There is a precise syncopation in everything that's happening. Almost surgical in its execution, the end result is rhythmically satisfying in a way very few action thrillers are. But even in its most exacting frames, the film still feels loose. Like a jazz riff, it seems like the next time you watch it, things could go differently. That kind of casualness is hard to pull off when everything is so choreographed, but Wright's film does it. And because music is an integral part of the story, it is a real treat that Wright found a way to make the bones of the film match the beats of the sounds at its core.
It is hard to imagine the person who would not enjoy this. Whether you appreciate it on a technical level, for the adrenaline rush or just for some of the brilliant one liners that leap out of Wright’s screenplay, there really might be something for everyone here.
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